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Submitted Literature

Dr Mukhti and Other Tales of Woe

By Will Self


Self’s “Quantity Theory of Insanity” is a collection of short stories, some of which interlink within each other and within Self’s other work. “Ward 9" is the story of an Art Therapist, Misha, who discovers some odd secrets about Dr Zack Busner’s psychiatric ward. “The Quantity Theory of Insanity” focuses on a mock conference, providing a satirical take on academia and also featuring Busner and his history.  Formed of short stories and novella, “Dr Mukhti and Other Tales of Woe” again picks up the comical characters of Mukti and Busner who gradually become locked in a strange clinical warfare, each referring increasingly dangerous, complex or difficult patients to the other in a battle of sanity.  “The Sweet Smell of Psychosis” explores drug-induced psychosis and the increasingly common use recreational substances among certain media-related career groups.

Key Themes:

  • Medical Training
  • Professional / Occupational Stress
  • Psychosis
  • Revealing Reads

Significant Quotes / Pages

99 – “Shiva’s dreams possessed a realism long since absent from his waking life.  They terrified him.  As he thrashed and moaned, a slim and elegant physician observed him.  For years Shiva had used all the diagnostic tools at his disposal on his wife, shoe-horning her into this or that dysfunctional slipper, but there was nothing wrong with Swati at all.  Her refusal to couple with sufficient enthusiasm, her lackadaisical absorption into the boarding household, her inefficient piety - none of these were symptoms of a neurosis or a behavioural disorder.  No, Swati Mukti became aware of her husband's instability soon after marrying him.  She waited before risking a pregnancy, contraception needn't be that sneaky, because Shiva was so profoundly self-absorbed.  Once she was pregnant with Mohan she was already regretting it.  Shiva's rages, his mood swings, his odd beliefs-all of it drove her to read his professional manuals.  Swati Mukti had concluded that, if not actually schizophrenic, then Shiva did at least have a border-line personality type.”

253 – “These were the only interactions he could tolerate, if he spent too long with any individual human-no matter how palsied and strange he still found them-he'd be compelled to grass before their shoulder, thrust his muzzle close to tears, while in treating them with agitated fingers to bury their fingers in his head fur, or mock-mate him, or hit him so as to convince him that he was still alive, still chimp.

Doctors came every week to give him injections.  He bade them when they told him to take his other medication with unfailing regularity, for he found that if he didn't the world became still more terrifying place, as his energy level rose and his perception widened, until he had an irrepressible urge to scamper up the facades of buildings, or force the humans he encountered to acknowledge his dominance by kissing his hairless arse.”





Reference: Will, Self. 2004. Dr Mukhti and Other Tales of Woe. London: Bloomsbury, 2004


- Charley Baker
Date Review Submitted: Monday 23rd March 2009